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In the world of cinema, it’s not often that a film manages to capture the essence of complex moral dilemmas and family dynamics with such precision and depth. South Korean director Hur Jin-ho’s latest offering, “A Normal Family,” not only accomplishes this feat but also leaves audiences pondering the boundaries of right and wrong long after the credits roll.
Four years ago, a Taiwanese masterpiece titled “A Sun” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, taking viewers on a multifaceted journey through the intricacies of a family’s life. Now, “A Normal Family” aims to achieve a similar impact, and it’s not going unnoticed. The Toronto programmers have recognized the film’s potential by granting it a Gala spot, ensuring it receives the recognition it truly deserves.
The movie kicks off with an adrenaline-pumping scene, as an aggressive driver in a blood-red Maserati recklessly navigates the streets, resulting in a fatal accident. What follows is a morally ambiguous rollercoaster that keeps the audience on edge, never allowing them to settle into the comfort of certainty. The driver, a trust-fund beneficiary, believes his powerful connections will absolve him of the crime, but his actions set in motion a chain of events that will impact two brothers.
One of the brothers, Jae-wan, is a lawyer without a conscience, skilled in manipulating the law to his advantage. The other, Jae-gyu, is a pediatrician known for his unwavering ethical principles. Their paths intersect as Jae-wan takes on the case to defend the reckless driver, while Jae-gyu works tirelessly to save the life of the injured daughter left behind by the accident.
What makes “A Normal Family” truly stand out is the emphasis on family dynamics. The movie delves into the lives of these two brothers and their wives, Ji-su and Yeon-kyung. These women aren’t relegated to the background; they are integral participants in the unfolding drama, adding depth and complexity to the narrative.
The performances by the cast are nothing short of remarkable. Sul Kyung-gu, who portrays Jae-wan, brings to life a character devoid of moral compass, while Jang Dong-gun’s portrayal of Jae-gyu is a masterclass in ethical turmoil. The wives, played by Claire Kim and Hee-ae Kim, deliver performances reminiscent of Edie Falco’s portrayal of Carmela Soprano, revealing layers of doubt and compromise beneath their public personas.
“A Normal Family” draws inspiration from Herman Koch’s Dutch novel, “The Dinner,” which is set entirely during a tumultuous family dinner. However, the film takes the story in a different direction, expanding it across multiple days and locations, allowing director Hur Jin-ho to explore the tensions cinematically.
As the adults grapple with their own dilemmas, they entrust their teenage children, Hye-yoon and Si-ho, to look out for each other. However, a shocking revelation reveals that these seemingly innocent adolescents are not what they appear to be. The film exposes their sociopathic tendencies as they watch and cheer on the reckless driver in a disturbing video game-like scenario.
The tension escalates further as the teenagers commit an act that would be considered unforgivable by most parents. But when it’s your children involved, forgiveness takes on a different meaning. An unseen surveillance camera captures their actions, thrusting the incident into the public eye and prompting a police investigation.
“A Normal Family” skillfully alternates between humanist concerns for the characters, particularly the injured girl on life support, and a darkly cynical sense of humor. The characters must navigate the morally treacherous waters and make decisions that will not only affect their children’s futures but also their own careers and social standing.
The film’s title, “A Normal Family,” ironically reflects the moral ambiguity that pervades the story. It’s a tale of four adults grappling with the unthinkable actions of their children, torn between doing what’s right and protecting their offspring. Unpredictable and thought-provoking until the very end, the movie leaves audiences with plenty to contemplate.
In a world where right and wrong often seem clear-cut, “A Normal Family” challenges us to question our own moral compasses. It’s a cinematic journey that will linger in your thoughts, a testament to the power of storytelling and the complexities of human nature. Don’t miss this gripping exploration of family, morality, and the choices we make when faced with the unexpected.
As “A Normal Family” continues to make waves on the international film scene, it’s clear that director Hur Jin-ho has created a masterpiece that will be remembered for years to come.